The following first appeared in The Frederick-News Post yesterday.
We applaud the city of Frederick for taking the next step to reduce the messy problem of pet waste (“Frederick accepts grant to combat pet waste,” March 22). We also thank the more than 100 city residents who already have taken the city’s “Scoop the Poop, Don’t Pollute” pledge.
It is heartening to see local governments and citizens taking such initiative. Innovation and cooperation are critical as we all do our part to clean up local creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
While some might smirk at a government program targeting dog piles, the potential for cleaner local water is substantial. Pet waste is responsible for about a quarter of the fecal bacteria pollution in streams in the Lower Monocacy River watershed, of sources scientists can identify. Rain washes the waste into local streams. Waste from livestock, wild animals and humans also gets into the water.
Such bacteria pollution is troubling. A 2009 study by the Maryland Department of the Environment found bacteria readings in the 314-square-mile Lower Monocacy watershed as much as 23 times higher than safety limits for swimming during the warmer months. That’s more like toilet water than a natural stream.
We believe a well-designed program to reduce pet waste can be one tool in the toolbox for reducing such local water pollution—and improving public health.
The city’s program could also help dispel the myth that clean water is too expensive to achieve. Educating the public to pick up after their pets, and providing bags and receptacles to help that effort, can be relatively inexpensive.
There’s no guarantee the doggie cleanup program will succeed. Changing public behavior is not easy. Surveys have found a great many dog walkers simply refuse to pick up after themselves for a variety of reasons.
But it’s worth the effort. Other towns and counties around the region are launching similar efforts, not only to reduce pet waste, but to clean their streams through other innovative strategies.
We’ll never succeed if we don’t try. This is our moment in time to finally clean up our streams, or write them off forever. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for the effort.
—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director